Apps to map your Black Friday buying strategy

Stores on Black Friday become war zones, with caffeine-charged consumers battling to buy the season’s hottest products at the lowest prices.

Before you leave the warmth of your home to line up outside Target or Best Buy for a new TV or gaming console, coordinate a plan of attack.

Armed with a smartphone and some of the market’s most helpful apps, you can map out a strategy that will help you escape the mall with your life (and those door-buster deals you wanted).

Deals of the day

Make a shopping list with the Black Friday Survival Guide.

First, you have to figure out what to buy and where.

The Black Friday Survival Guide from Sazze (free for iOS) has climbed into the top three free apps on iTunes, and for good reason. The app’s news feed automatically refreshes with newly released ads and sale notifications so you always have the freshest deals at your fingertips. You can also browse Black Friday ads by store and create a shopping list.

RetailMeNot has long been a great online source of coupon codes for discounts and free shipping, and this summer the site went mobile. RetailMeNot recently released the second version of its app (free for iOS and Android). The iOS version pushes location-specific coupons to your iPhone in partnership with more than 500 malls in the U.S., so on Black Friday you can take advantage of deals in store on the spot.

Find coupons to use in-store on Black Friday with Retail Me Not's app.

The TGI Black Friday app from TGIBlackFriday.com and DealCatcher.com (free foriOS and Android) pushes new ads to your phone and lets you compare prices on products across different stores. You can also shop from the app, so if you’re waiting in line on Black Friday and spot a better price on the product you want, you can buy it right then.

Perhaps the ultimate Black Friday app, FatWallet’s Black Friday (free for iOS) has an advanced search option that lets you find information on free shipping offers, doorbuster deals, whether the product is stocked online, and eligible rebates. And instead of viewing each store’s ad in its entirety, FatWallet’s app lists individual items in the ads so you can better sort through them.

The DealNews.com Black Friday app (free for iOS and Android) also filters specific items and lets you save products to a shopping list that you can then access and purchase from online, if you’re averse to mobile shopping.

The best bargains

ShopAdvisor lets you set price alerts on products.

Sorting through the onslaught of Black Friday ads from every major retailer in the country is a difficult undertaking, and it can be challenging to figure out which store has the best price on the product you want.

There are several apps for that.

Some comparison-shopping tools, such as ShopAdvisor (free for iOS), let you design wish lists of items you want and select the price you’re willing to pay. The app notifies you when the price drops and tells you where you can find the best deal.

Then there are bar code scanners you can use on the big day, such as review and ratings app BuyOrNot (currently free for iOS, normally 99 cents), BuyVia (free for iOS), ShopSavvy (free for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone), and PriceGrabber (free for iOS and Android). The apps are similar in that they let you scan bar codes or, in some cases, QR codes to compare prices in-store with those online or at competing retailers.

If you use these apps on Black Friday, you’ll be one of the 20 percent of consumers who admit to showrooming, or checking out a product in the store and then purchasing it elsewhere. Some retailers, such as Best Buy, plan to match lower prices found online, so having a price-comparison app on hand could net you a better deal in store.

Find coffee shops and Wi-Fi hotspots with MyCityWay.

Apps to map

Now that you know where and how to find the best deals on Black Friday, it’s time to map your route.

Upgraded apps from Macy’s and Walmart feature location-specific store maps so you can find your item, buy it, and get out with little fuss (in a perfect world, of course).

If you’re looking for an app that serves as a centralized hub for multiple stores, Google Maps for Android has maps and Black Friday deals from Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, and other retailers.

This self-explanatory app helps you navigate the parking lot.

MyCityWay (free for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and coming soon to Windows Phone 8) isn’t an app specific to Black Friday, but its navigation capabilities will be useful for the day’s buying blitz. The app culls information from more than 30 other apps to feed you live traffic alerts, nearby restaurants, new deals, free Wi-Fi, and weather forecasts. You’ll be prepared for anything after creating a customized dashboard with this app.

At the end of the day (or around noon), when you wander to the parking lot in a daze with your loot in tow and can’t find your vehicle, use Find My Car (free for iOS and Android) to, well, find your car.

Good luck out there.

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